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Annex one: detailed person specification
The person specification is:
- committed to career development of early career researchers (ECRs) and participate in career development activities of their colleagues
- deep knowledge and understanding of the research and innovation landscape in the UK and internationally (both broadly and in your own area of expertise)
- ability to contribute creatively, constructively, and strategically
- knowledge or experience of policy or strategy development
- understanding of the interface between academia, industry and other relevant UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) stakeholders, as well as awareness of end user and developer perspectives
- demonstrable track record of international leadership in your field of expertise.
The essential experience is:
- demonstrable research, innovation outputs, outcomes, including publications, funding track record, patents, etc
- participation on committees, boards or panels for UKRI or other funders
- experience of activities related to supporting skills and careers, this may include doctoral training, researcher development and research support for teams.
The desirable experience is:
- business, innovation and investor experience
- expertise in broad multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary working
- experience of working internationally, particularly in the context of global challenges
- experience of working in a policy development environment
- experience of the development of research outputs into real world value for example, in the form of infrastructure, people, technologies, new commercial products, software, data management, standards.
Annex two: background on FLF panels, and the role requirements
Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF)
FLFs support talented people in universities, businesses, and other research and innovation environments. They also allow universities and businesses to develop their most talented ECRs and innovators or to attract new people to their organisations, including from overseas.
The aim of the scheme is to develop the next wave of world-class research and innovation leaders across academia and business. FLFs fund research and innovation projects in all areas supported by UKRI, with many interdisciplinary fellowships meeting the remit of two or more councils.
Funding is available for four years in the first instance and can be renewed for a further three years through our fellowship renewal scheme (all fellows are invited to apply for this in year three of their fellowship).
Find out more about the scheme at: What are Future Leaders Fellowships.
Role and format of the panels
UKRI FLF panels take place in two stages, enabling the allocation of FLF funding to individuals who show outstanding potential to become world leading innovators and researchers.
Our panels strike a balance between the use of expert information (provided through written, expert reviews), and deploying generalist understanding to moderate and score proposals.
Rather than focussing on narrow or specialist disciplines, FLF panels are cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and reflect the interdisciplinary nature and open remit of the scheme. Crucially, the role of a moderating panel is to form conclusions based on interpretation of the specialist peer review reports, the applicants’ response to these reports, and panel members’ broad sectoral expertise.
Panels are bespoke and formed ‘de novo’ for every meeting. Expertise required on the panels are determined by the applications we receive, and the applications that progress to interview (meaning, your expertise may be required at sift panel stage, but not at interview should no proposals in your area be taken forward).
Currently, applications from academia and from business are assessed separately at interview.
The purpose of the FLF sift panels is to shortlist competitive proposals, which will be prioritised for interview. For round 7, we anticipate a maximum of 500 proposals, which will be assessed in multiple simultaneous two-day sift panels over a period of four-days (approximately 10 to 12 sift panels).
At the end of the four days, each sift panel will produce a scored and prioritised list of proposals. These lists will then be tensioned to produce a list of up to 200 candidates who will be considered for interview.
The interview panels are the final assessment stage for the FLF awards. At the end of the interview stage there will be ranked and recommended lists of applications for funding. The approach taken to FLF panels is likely to be different from other UKRI interview panels you may have experienced previously.
Differences include but are not limited to:
- the structure and length of the interviews
- number of interviews per day or meeting
- size of panels
- set questions
- reflection time
- assessment criteria
- scoring practice.
Therefore, if invited to participate it is essential all panel members also participate in panel briefing sessions.
Due to the scale of the funding scheme and the remit spanning all UKRI disciplines, communities, sectors and applications are assessed over multiple panels.
It is vitally important that our panel member community adhere to the unique FLF process and guidance, so that we maintain consistency and fair assessment of applicants across all panels. To assist with this, for all of our panels we use roving panel members and UKRI observers, who observe and report back on panel processes.
Panel member role
The role of panel members at both sift and interview is to assess a number of proposals and act as introducing members (IM). Each proposal has three IMs, thus your assessments will be given along with the views of others, and the panel Chair will guide the panel to reaching a consensus score.
Typically, at sift you may be asked to assess about 10 proposals, and at interview, three to six.
We ask our panel members to read the ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’ drawn up by the Nolan Committee and endorsed by Parliament. These principles are described in more detail at: principles of public life and refer to:
We expect you to be able to commit the necessary time and attention to your appointment and to have the full support or the necessary permission of your employer. The time commitment for a single round will be up to four days of meetings (two days per sift panel, two days per interview panel) plus time to attend pre-panel briefings (usually one hour, delivered on Zoom).
- you will receive a remuneration fee of £160 per day, plus any travel and subsistence incurred
- the longest our virtual meetings are timetabled for each day is about 9:00 to 16:30, with several breaks
- invitation may be to either sift meeting, or interview, or both
- not all panel college members will be invited to all meetings, expertise areas and balance of equality, diversity and inclusion are both factors we take into consideration when forming our panels
- we aim to make any reasonable adjustments panel members may need, please inform us of any disabilities, specific needs or caring responsibilities that may impact on your involvement. Please note, we are able to pay costs incurred (such as for childcare) to support panel members to attend.
Annex three: panel member testimonials
Dr Alison Burdett (Sensium-Healthcare)
Being a member of the FLF review panel has been an incredibly enjoyable experience. The applications are generally of a very high standard and so are a pleasure to review, while the breadth of topics means that you learn a lot about subjects that are tangential to your specific area of expertise.
The review panel membership itself is also broad, I found myself (an engineer) alongside clinicians, historians, physicists and social scientists who all brought a different perspective and insights to the topic under discussion. The panel was one of the most constructive and collaborative I have served on, and I have formed new colleagues and collaborations from people I met on the review panel.
Professor Barbara Mable (University of Glasgow)
I joined the FLF panel because, although I have been responsible for advice on grant proposals at all levels in our Institute in the past, in the past few years I have focused more on supporting ECRs.
The FLF scheme seemed new and exciting and the flexibility has been transformative for the careers of its recipients. Although it was a lot of work and there have been teething pains along the way, one thing I found particularly good about the FLF scheme was that the UKRI admin team responded directly to feedback from panel members and chairs and incorporated positive change in each round.
I also really liked the focus on clear criteria that are adhered to strictly and the support from the UKRI staff to ensure that panels were moderating, rather than re-reviewing. It was also great to meet people from different disciplines during the panel meetings.
The sift was always challenging to get through in the time available but hearing directly from the candidates during the interviews was always more enjoyable. Since I have been involved with all six of the initial FLF rounds (both as chair and panel member), I have learned a lot about how to help applicants sell their vision, and have supported applicants across all disciplines at our university.
Dr Donald Palmer (Royal Veterinary College)
Being on the FLF panel is a highly rewarding experience. You get an opportunity to view the breath and depth of British science and engage with some of the most highly talented young researchers in the UK
Professor Eleanor Riley (University of Edinburgh)
I was delighted to be asked to join the FLF assessment panel. The FLF scheme was designed to break down decades-old research silos and to encourage and facilitate a more holistic way of tackling challenges such as:
- environmental sustainability
- human health and wellbeing
- global justice.
It has been a real joy to see the wealth of ideas and talent among early and mid-career researchers applying for FLF fellowships and a genuine privilege to help them on their way.
I have met some truly remarkable people who embody contemporary and inclusive ways of working, supporting others and delivering impact from their work. If they are representative of the future of UKRI, then we are in pretty good shape.
Professor Franklin Aigbirhio (University of Cambridge)
The transition from post-doctoral status to the first independent research position remains one of the most difficult stages to achieve in a research career. Therefore, I consider the FLF with its objective to enable this transition to be an important and much needed initiative. This is why I wanted to support it by being involved as a panel member.
Importantly I am keen that the outcome of the scheme constantly produces a diverse and representative range of successful applicants.
I have now taken part both as a member and a Chair of sift panels and interview panels. Though initially approaching both with slight trepidation, especially with the range of proposals to reviewed mostly outside my expertise, I have found this to be unwarranted.
It is a stimulating activity for which I am hugely impressed at the very high standards of the research applications submitted and the applicants. By the time they reach the interview stage such is the high quality you feel a pity that you cannot fund all of them.
I have now used my experience gained from the scheme to feedback to my institution and so hopefully help applicants to understand what is required for success. This I hope will result in stronger applications from my institutions.
In all from my involvement as a FLF panel member I have found it highly rewarding, to be pleasingly intellectually stretched with reviewing areas of research outside my field, good engagement and discussions with fellow panellist and good support by the FLF scheme administration.
But most importantly it is a pleasure to be able support these highly impressive ECRs towards their next stage of their career.
Professor Ilaria Bellantuono (University of Sheffield)
I joined because I wanted to give something back to the community and I felt I had the appropriate experience. I had served on various fellowship panels for UK and EU funders and I had done work to support the career development of junior researchers.
I also wanted to learn about the process of selection from the inside to help junior researchers in my institution to prepare well their applications. I like to support the next generation of researchers. I have not forgotten how hard it was when I was transitioning to become an independent researcher. I am eternally indebt for any support I received.
I have enjoyed so many things of this scheme and I have learnt so much, far more than I ever thought. I loved to learn about some amazing research and to hear from extremely talented young researchers. Every interview panel was so refreshing and it felt like such a good use of my time because I felt we were doing the best job we could.
I loved getting to understand the principle behind the selection process. It is extremely well thought-out, people rather than process focused, so determined to deliver objective, fair decisions, which foster diversity in its many forms.
I have now implemented a similar system in my own institute and I am progressively persuading my colleagues that it is a very good process. Finally, it was uplifting to feel valued and to have the opportunity to input in the way the programme is run. I hope other funders learn from this scheme.
I definitely know what makes a good FLF application now and I am helping new applicants in shaping their applications. However, there is much more. I have learnt so much about ways to improve research culture and I have started fostering change in how we operate in my research team and my institute.
Professor James Hegarty (Cardiff University)
The FLF is a wonderful funding scheme to be part of. It is wonderfully open to new ideas and to applicants from beyond the academy. It includes all disciplines and specialisms within its ambit from clinical research to ancient languages.
It is also extremely well run with a deep commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, which is reflected in all parts of the process, and most especially in the interview, which really gives the candidates an opportunity to share their ideas in a constructive and supportive environment.
The FLF scheme allows you to survey an enormous cross-section of often socially and economically significant and always path-breaking new research ideas and programmes of work. I joined the process in its early days serving as a member of the sift panels (which whittle down the applications) and also the final interview panels. I ended up chairing four rounds of final interviews broadly in the humanities.
I enjoyed working with a more diverse range of colleagues than I ordinarily do. I also enjoyed the commitment to combating unconscious bias and to ensuring that career breaks and other factors where absolutely no obstacle to the taking forward of an innovative programme of research. There was always also a bit of a ‘buzz’ to the FLF panels I served on, as it was a place where people brought really very exciting ideas.
The FLF scheme has also been helpful to my career and professional life in several ways. Firstly, and most importantly, it has influenced how I conduct my day to day work. It is no exaggeration to say that the mode of approach of the FLF has changed the way I frame and conduct interviews at my home institution (something I am heavily involved in as the Head of a large school in the humanities).
Secondly, it has changed how I think about the incredible range of socially and economically significant activities that the Humanities can touch upon, when engaged with in new and innovative ways by talented individuals.
Finally, it has been helpful as a very clear demonstration of my commitment and contribution to the UK research landscape beyond my core research activities. I enjoyed every minute of my time working with UKRI and academic colleagues as part of the FLF scheme.
Jan Wolber (GE Healthcare Ltd)
Firstly, I was very pleased to see this scheme being launched. I thought, and I still think, that this is exactly what the UK needs to offer a long-term perspective to ambitious and excellent ECRs who wish to establish themselves.
The FLF scheme should be able to retain talent in the UK and attract talent from elsewhere. I believe that those expectations have been fulfilled judging from some of the applications that I have seen.
Secondly, I also want to give some of my time to the community of researchers that I collaborate with, in order to sustain and possibly enhance the quality of research and innovation in the UK.
I have enjoyed reading a variety of highly interesting applications, some of which contain fascinating science.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the panels, I have learnt about aspects of science that I might not normally interact with. I have also enjoyed being part of the FLF reviewer community and have had great conversations with other panel members during some of the face-to-face panel meetings.
Another aspect I have enjoyed very much is the mentoring of a FLF who is now getting to the point of renewal after four years.
FLF applications are unique in that they ask the applicant to think very broadly about a scientific programme of work but also about themselves, their own development and how to assemble a group and look after their team members and educate them. As such, they truly deserve being labelled with the possibly overused term ‘leadership’. The philosophy at the heart of the FLF scheme has influenced my approach when coaching junior colleagues in my work environment.
Firstly, the FLF scheme has broadened my horizon about the scientific community in the UK. It has influenced my thinking about career trajectories and leadership. It has also allowed a younger colleague and former PhD student to obtain a FLF award, which will ensure continuity of the research field that I joined 25 years ago.
It is positive that the FLF scheme is also available to applicants from industry. I am under the impression that the number of applications, and the number of awards, to industry applicants is still significantly below those from an academic background.
But I hope that with some successful industry FLF awards and possibly more people from industry joining the review panels, there will be an increasing awareness of FLF across industry, better recognition of what makes an excellent industrial FLF applicant, and a higher success rate of those applications.
Professor John Girkin (Durham University)
I joined the FLF panel as I felt it was an important scheme and one where a) my broad experience of academia and industry, might be useful and b) that I feel that it is really important to support and nurture the next generation of research leaders.
I also find being involved in such schemes helps me feel remotivated as you are often hearing from new rising stars who can really ‘sell’ their research.
I acted as a roving panel member of several occasions and I found it really interesting to see how different areas of academia go about determining the quality of the ECRs in front of them. I felt that in the end the best people did come to the top, some were clearly outstanding even if you had no idea of the subject area at an academic level, but the processes were often very different.
I have actually since used some of this experience in improving the way that I have been involved in assessing people and their research, it has given me a much broader perspective.
As well as being on the panel I have been both a mentor to external and internal FLFs. This has given me a good feeling about helping the next generation of researchers and also, to be honest, some new ideas for my own research and directions that I had not thought about. Not following the FLF projects but making me think about different ways I could undertake some aspects of my research.
I am not sure it has directly impacted my career except with providing me with extra work. On the other hand outside citizenship (such as being on such panels) is one metric for promotion within my institution and I have recently been promoted and so perhaps the FLF work may have made some contribution here.
Professor John Stairmand (Jacobs)
I have supported peer review and panel meetings for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Science and Technology Facilities Council for some time.
The FLF scheme follows a similar process, and I have always found that my engagement with this gives me excellent state-of-the-art insights into methods and approaches that are being taken by the best innovative research talent in the country.
In addition, I can establish connections with fellow panellists, many of whom are current technical leaders. The insights into early researcher career development is also useful for informing internal staff development. I have been involved in the FLF Panel College from its inception, and have always found it to be a rewarding and motivating experience.
Professor Michelle Peckham (Leeds University)
I decided to join the UKRI FLF panel for a number of reasons. I’d already been a member of the Medical Research Council (MRC) non-clinical fellowships panel, which I had very much enjoyed.
It had been an incredible privilege to read the applications of excellent new researchers towards the start of their independent careers, and to interview them in person. As I expected, I very much enjoyed this aspect for the UKRI FLF scheme.
The UKRI FLF applications often had a strong interdisciplinary element to the proposed science and very much reflected new developments and cutting edge, next generation science. As a consequence, the applications were really interesting to read and assess, difficult though it was to make decisions on who is invited to interview and who is finally awarded the fellowships.
Of course, it is very hard work to read and assess the proposals, most of which are in my broader remit of expertise, rather than in my key research area, so one has to be prepared to set aside time to do this.
Finally, there is one further really enjoyable aspect of being a member of the panel. It was great to work in a team with the other panel members, to discuss great science with them, and to learn a great deal about new areas of science outside my own specific expertise.
The whole experience has also helped me to support and give advice to researchers in my home institution and elsewhere, who are applying for these and other fellowships, and of course a terrific experience to see some of these researchers successfully funded and able to take the next steps on their academic career.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend joining the panel as a great opportunity to support ECRs.
Professor Michael White (University of Manchester)
I had previously been a member of the MRC skills panel and had extensive experience of (in particular) MRC and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funding panels.
I had previously been a member of a BBSRC people and skills panel who wrote a strategic report. I was originally asked to consider applying or joining the FLF panels by MRC. This was an easy decision as I was already interested in extending my experience in the area of the development of early career researchers. I was excited to be involved in the new FLF programme which I considered innovative and timely.
I have enjoyed reviewing the exciting proposals. I like the fact that they can be interdisciplinary with no research council boundaries. I have enjoyed the friendly and supportive interview process which I think is fairer to all.
I have always enjoyed research funding panel work which I think is an excellent way to repay the funding that I have received. I enjoy doing my very best to make impartial and unbiased decisions about challenging and novel research proposals.
I have learnt a great deal from taking part in this program. It has made me think a lot about the need to improve career paths for early career researchers. I have taken a lead role as Associate Dean for Talent Development and Fellowships in the Faculty of Biology Medicine and Health in my own university.
In this role I direct the Fellowship Academy and have used experience gained from FLF in institutional recruitment. I have been very struck that friendly structured interviews designed to encourage diversity are very effective.
In addition following a dual career in industry and academia, I have always been an advocate for interdisciplinarity and the need for a more flexible approach to scientific careers. My experience with FLF has reinforced these views. In addition to this I am the formal mentor to one FLF in Manchester, Dr Rok Krasovec.
As stated above my move to my new institutional role as Associate Dean and Director of the Fellowship Academy was very much motivated by my experience with FLF. In this role I look after over 100 externally funded fellows. It is a role that I love as I see the very best future research stars and can help them develop.
At this stage in my career I am highly motivated to create a positive environment and culture for early career researchers. I am now considering taking a formal coaching qualification and have reconsidered my leadership style and how I can best act as an advocate for the fellows and for all aspects of cultural and academic diversity.
Professor Nicole Metje (University of Birmingham)
Initially I enjoyed the FLF panels as I wanted to gain more experience in being a panel member, chairing panels and getting to know UKRI processes better.
More recently, the main driver were the FLFs and their inspirational research. Every round I have seen applicants talking with passion about their research and the impact it could make. I strongly believe that the FLF is an excellent scheme to support applicants moving to other disciplines or early in their career.
Often I came out of, especially the interview round, feeling inspired. Moreover, I always felt that I also wanted to support applicants from my host institution and by being on a panel, I could provide more guidance to my colleagues.
I have also enjoyed meeting colleagues from other institutions, sometimes making new connections or re-establishing old ones. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the panels to date.
In terms of career, it is hard to say as any career progression is a combination of activities including papers and grant income. However, being a panel member has enabled me to provide a narrative in my CV on external citizenship and engaging with a funding body. I strongly believe that this has strengthened my CV.
Professor Sarah Vickerstaff (University of Kent)
I was asked to join a panel for round 1 and then all subsequent rounds and as it is a scheme across all disciplines I thought that it was important that social sciences were adequately represented. I had previous panel experience for the ESRC and thought it would be interesting to see applications from a wider field of candidates.
I have really enjoyed being on the sift and interview panels because of the wide range of exciting research you get to see and the excellence of the early career people who apply. I also feel I have learned quite a lot about how research questions are constructed and methodologies employed in fields at some distance from my own.
My experience on the panel has helped me to support colleagues in my home institution put their applications together and I have been involved in the demand management side at this level.
Like all reviewing of grant applications or articles I have always felt that it massively enhances your own skills. You really hone your own appreciation of what a really good application looks like, what reviewers pick up on and how to deal with the different elements of an application such as the principle investigator response to reviewers. This has undoubtedly improved my practice but has also helped me mentor colleagues.
Professor Stefan Przyborski (Durham University)
Through the FLF scheme, the UKRI has supported tremendous talent that will contribute toward the future of scientific discovery. It has been a pleasure and a privilege working as a panel member, rover, and mentor to hear from and identify the next generation of world-leading researchers.
Award of a FLF is a prestigious achievement providing the fellow with the opportunity to develop as an independent world-class researcher.
The experience and knowledge of established researchers has helped further benefit the development of our fellows through the accompanying mentorship scheme. For example, introducing new prospects and contacts, advice on new concepts and funding opportunities, to help and advise fellows further develop and establish their careers. Personally, this was very rewarding experience and it has been a pleasure to be involved.
Dr Su Varma (NSG European Technical Centre)
I was invited to join the FLF Panel College in late 2018 and have been involved in several rounds over the past four years in various roles and stages of the process.
As I have stated at cohort meetings and publicly, it has been and continues to be one of the best experiences of my career as it’s not often one gets to read about, assess, engage, and interact with globally leading young talent in so many different fields of research activities!
It really is very rewarding and incredibly useful to learn about new topics, some of which I didn’t think even existed! I’m constantly blown away by the depth of quality of the applicants. It is also so nice to come across highly articulate and confident young researchers who will, no doubt, be leading many of their chosen fields in the future.
I have used this experience in providing advice to as many young talented scientists, in and outside my own area of expertise, to encourage them to be ambitious and apply for rewarding fellowships like the FLF to sustain their holistic development.
My membership of the FLF Panel College within my company is highly regarded due to the prestige it is seen to bring to the organisation.
In conclusion, I feel very privileged to be part of the world’s leading talent recognition scheme and highly impressed by the diversity of research topics and of applicants too. It is even more encouraging to see businesses engaging with their best talent! UKRI should be highly commended for developing this unique FLF scheme.
Professor Tara Shears (University of Liverpool)
I joined the FLF Panel College originally because the FLF scheme represented something new and positive that UKRI could enable, and I wanted to help.
I’d served on panels for other fellowship schemes that had a slightly different focus. None captured the breadth of research that could be supported, or the ways in which leadership could be developed, quite like the FLF. I really think it’s been a UKRI success story.
I love two things about the scheme. First, it gives you the opportunity to hear from truly amazing researchers who will dictate the future of our subjects. They are so impressive, and the award of an FLF will turbocharge their research lives to achieve even better things.
Second, the process is so fair and constructive to both applicants and panel members. The FLF is the only scheme I’ve come across where applicants have said how much they enjoyed the interview afterwards.
I’ve learned much from the scheme that I’ve taken elsewhere, in terms of fair decision making and good practice in the support of others. It’s really benefitted me and has been an incredibly positive experience.